Kia ora: Naseby

Miners and farmers have made way for curling, writes Elisabeth Easther.
Curling competition in Otago. Photo / ODT
Curling competition in Otago. Photo / ODT

Where is it? In Central Otago at the foot of the Ida range, 15km from Ranfurly. Or, if you prefer, 143km from Dunedin.

Origin of name: Named by the Superintendent of Otago after his mother's birthplace, Naseby in Northamptonshire. Previously it had also been called Parkers, Hogburn and Mt Ida.

Population: The 120 permanent residents are boosted by more than 3000 during the peak holiday season, around Christmas to mid-January. Naseby's popular in winter, too.

Back in the day: Naseby was originally the county seat. In the 1850s it was bustling with sheep and in the 1860s the metropolis expanded to include miners but, when the railway came through around 1900, it passed Naseby by, going through Ranfurly instead, so all the big businesses moved there. By the 1950s Naseby was virtually a ghost town.

Lately: At the turn of the millenium, Naseby's popularity waxed again with holidaymakers and cribbies coming through, looking for an alternative to Queenstown or Wanaka. In the 1990s you could buy a house in Naseby for as little as $20,000 to $30,000.

Town slogan: "Our Hope" is on the town's coat of arms and "2000 Feet Above Worry Level" is on the Welcome to Naseby sign as you drive into town.

Lofty ideals: Naseby is New Zealand's highest borough.

Biggest business: Forestry and tourism bring a lot of visitors to the town. The Otago Central Rail Trail alone brings around 10,000 visitors a year to the area and quite a few make a side trip to Naseby.

Source of pride: Naseby is the home of curling in New Zealand, a sport that's been played here since the 1870s. The indoor curling rink, built through local fundraising efforts, is a thing of beauty.

Town fiestas: Kids' Fun Day is held every New Year's Day - entry for kids is $1 and adults are free. It's all about old-fashioned races, egg and spoon, sack race, that sort of thing. The biennial Bards, Ballads and Bulldust with its country and western flavour is held in hotels all over the Maniototo area around Easter. Musicians, minstrels and poets flock to the area to sing songs and tell tall tales. The Great Naseby Water Race is an ultra marathon held around August and is pretty huge.

Here for a short time: Visit the Information Centre and Craft Shop where the knowledgeable volunteers will point you in the right direction. The curling rink is great any time of year and in winter outdoor skating and lugeing are great fun.

Best reason to stop: Because Naseby has a timeless feel that lends itself to relaxation; the clocks tick slower.

Best place to take the kids: In summer, take them to the swimming dam and in winter the ice rink is the cool place to go.

Heavy metal: The information centre sells gold pans and visitors can still get "colour" out of the creeks and streams if they're lucky. Oteake Reserve in the Ida Range is a good place to go, but you'll need a four-wheel drive.

Cheap thrills: The outdoor luge at the ice rink is amazing. You can hire all the gear and have the ride of your life here, reaching speeds of up to 70-75km per hour.

Best walk: Stride along the water race in Naseby Forest where you can walk for about 10-15 km in and then back out again, doing as much or as little as you like. The forest is privately owned, which means there are designated public areas for walking and cycling.

Best view: Any hill above the town will see you right if you want to gaze out over forest at this pretty little township in the trees. In autumn it's deciduously delicious.

Race for water: When Naseby was a gold town, the ore wasn't panned from rivers because it was alluvial and had to be sluiced out. But because water was scarce in those days they used races with a lot of the water coming from the Manuherikia River having to be channelled 114km to get to Naseby.

Best swim: Naseby swimming dam, formerly an old mining dam, is now a popular picnic spot and handily it's right next to the camping ground. The Lions concrete a bit more of the base each year when it's emptied each winter as it freezes solid. It covers about a hectare and is shallow and very safe for children to swim in.

Best museum: Maniototo Early Settlers Museum is chock full of memorabilia reflecting the history of the area. It's one of those gorgeous little museums that's jam-packed with fascinating stuff.

Art gallery: The information centre is attached to a craft shop that stocks lovely wares, perfect for souvenirs and gifts.

Cafe culture: Black Forest Cafe on Derwent Street is the only cafe in town; they do coffee, home baking and super meals.

Best food: You can go to either of the hotels for good country pub grub or, for something a bit more swanky, Naseby Lodge is where you need to go.

Wet your whistle: The Ancient Briton and the Royal Hotel, were built in 1863 when this place was thriving and they're full of character.

Rest your head: The Old Doctors' Residence is utterly charming - the beds are said to be so comfortable you never want to get out of them.

On your bike: Naseby Forest has everything from easy trails to rides that'll see an expert's knuckles turn white. Serious events are held here including the Naseby 12-Hour Race. The Otago Central Rail Trail is nearby.

Wildlife: Deer, pigs and millions of rabbits.

Safety warnings: Wear rubber-soled footwear when walking on the ice as it can be very slippery.

Cool: Pack your warmest woollies in winter when temperatures can go as low as -20C.

So hot: In summer, be sure to take your togs when the mercury can rise as high as 40C.

Thanks to a long-time local for spilling the beans.

- NZ Herald

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